Prince, the iconic bender of genres, genders, and all sorts of other things, has died. As of this writing, the cause is up in the air. For someone to die at the age of fifty-seven, no matter what the cause ultimately is, that is a tragedy and a sadness that cannot be assuaged by the truth of his last days or hours. I was all set to wear something purple today, to honor the man; turns out I don’t have anything purple because it’s not one of my favorite colors. And I don’t have any of his songs on my iTunes, except for a Hindu Love Gods cover of “Raspberry Beret.” No matter, I hope the Artist knows I hold him in the highest respect.
The Eighties were truly a weird time; music videos exposed us all to a world of music and musicians that we might otherwise have never noted. I didn’t grow up with MTV; I had to wait until NBC’s “Friday Night Videos” for my fix of Whitesnake, R.E.M., and Michael Jackson. Prince was surely there in the mix, but I’m afraid I don’t have distinct memories of seeing him there. Nor did I ever get around to watching the film “Purple Rain.” My sister once sent me frantic texts asking about the movie as she caught it one night on a channel I don’t have at my house. I had only one explanation for her queries: “hey, it was the Eighties.”
It’s hard to think of Prince as being from any other era, though I know his career stretched back to the late Seventies and continued until well after many of us casual fans lost interest or lost contact. Like Bowie, he embodied a fluid concept of gender and sexuality that was designed seemingly to offend the parents and teachers and peers of my little mountain hometown. Prince wasn’t gay or straight or black or white or anything that you wanted to label him as; he was his own person, an artist (or Artist) who didn’t have time for considerations as silly as “is this pop, funk, or rock?” and “what if our look isn’t appealing enough?” I remember fondly seeing Charlie Murphy talk about how Prince’s mid-Eighties style lured Murphy and his crew into a false sense of security during a pick-up game of basketball; that, not the Rick James episode, remains my favorite “Chappelle’s Show” moment (though the Rick James segment is justifiably famous).
Prince was a musician and a creative genius, and we will not likely see anyone comparable to him in our lifetimes. Whether you were a casual fan or a diehard, you’re taking the loss equally hard judging from social media’s outpouring (ironically, his music is unavailable on the traditional means of remembrance these days, YouTube). For those of us who forgot about him, who didn’t know he was still hard at work creating masterpieces, shame on us. Heaven just got a little cooler.
Trevor Seigler is a graduate student and TA at Clemson University, currently working on a Master’s Degree in English and looking to pursue an MFA degree in creative writing after graduation. He is a native of Walhalla, South Carolina. Among his favorite authors are Charles Portis, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders, Barry Hannah, and Thomas Pynchon.